Big Interview

Keep customers at the heart of transformation

Frederic Duval_Orange.jpg

Frédéric Dufal VP strategy, customer experience, digital and transformation, International Carriers, Orange, speaks to Natalie Bannerman about how Orange is keeping its customers at the centre of all it does.

Business transformation, in wholesale terms, refers to the growing digitisation of processes and products to better serve customer needs and to optimise operations. 

The key element of any business changes is that it better meets the wants of the end customers, and a clear example of that in the telecoms community is International Carriers, Orange.

One of the people at the head of that customer-centric transformation is Frédéric Dufal, vice president of strategy, customer experience, digital & transformation, International Carriers, Orange. In this role, Dufal both managed the definition and implementation of the company’s transformation plan as well as leading the improvement and digitalisation efforts for the customer experience segment.

Customers first

Speaking to him about the importance of customer experience to the overall business transformation roadmap, he says.

“Something quite key in the Orange DNA and in how we do digitisation at Orange in general, and at International Carriers in particular, is to make sure that we start from the customers’ viewpoint.”

The key he says is listening, responding and not solely on the bottom line.

“It’s important to not just push things out, but to listen to what people want and give it to them. I think that is the recipe for success in general in business, but especially in digitisation where the promise of ROI on saving things could basically push you into getting your customers needing to do more work in the long run.”

With over 25 years in the telecoms industry, Dufal started his career at France Télécom, before joining Orange Business Services in the early 2000’s and working his way up through the ranks. He even served as vice chairman of the board at the Tizen Association.

Looking at the market as whole, Dufal offers his insights into the biggest trends he sees across the sector, and virtualisation is top of the list.

“As in many other industries, wholesale will become more and more software-based which will influence networks very strongly. Also, for operators, artificial intelligence may play a very significant role in their relationship with their own customers, especially in mass market where you have huge volumes. With Blockchain experiments starting in a number of places, we may find they prove to be of significant interest.”

For its part, Dufal says that International Carriers, Orange, is developing a number of new product solutions with this customer-centric focus in mind.

“One is our digital portal, which is mostly focused on customer care today, but we are expanding it. We really designed it starting with a focus group and what customers want, what is their priority, what they expect to find online and under which User Interface, etc.

Next he points to the company’s first step into the world of on-demand, although he indicates there is much more to come.

“We launched an offering called Ethernet Now that allows our customers to order Ethernet links or change the bandwidth of their Ethernet links. It’s our first step into the on-demand world, but only a first step.”

Minimise attack-surface

As part of the wider Orange group, International Carriers, has strong proximity to Orange Cyberdefense, meaning that it has a number of security products on offer to its customers.

“We have thorough sets of services around anti-fraud and security, he explains. “And the more the world is digitised, the more risk you have from hackers and things like that. We help the operator to protect their customer and protect their own network from attacks, which could impede customer experience quite significantly.”

Though softwarisation and virtualisation may appear to increase your attack surface, Dufal isn’t one to buy into this idea that all digitisation is bad.

progress,” he says. “Digitisation is really an improvement for the industry, but we have to do it with open eyes. If you do digitisation without being aware of the security aspects and then don’t handle them well, you’re introducing a significant portion of risk.”

But all the blame can’t be left on the part of the technology, as security risks can often lie in human error.

“Very often risks can just come from how your staff is educated, human engineering etc., explains Dufal.

“Therefore, a larger surface might not mean much higher risk if the new surface is well managed. If the small new surface is not managed at all, then most probably it can introduce very significant risks. It’s always a balance.”

Emerging tech

As the conversation moves onto the drivers of transformation, I’m curious as to whether or not Dufal, like many believes that preparation for 5G and IoT is a contributing factor.

“5G and IoT will be key drivers for transformation in a series of areas, like smart cities or industry 4.0. So they’re first an enabler for digital transformation, and after that, to me the key transformation advantage is that it allows us to capture data with IoT.”

Interestingly, he says that IoT won’t intrinsically change wholesale networks, but rather the way we capture and interpret data.

“I’m not sure that IoT will change how we do networks because as we are connected we already knew how to capture the data. I think the analytics side has strong value, and I think the way of properly understanding what the end users want to do and what the end B2B wants to do with IoT and 5G will help to drive the right offers to the carriers in general.”

The biggest trend Dufal sees around IoT is the need to combine a series of radio protocols and for its part Orange has been active in this area.

“Orange is already supporting LoRa and 4G, 5G etc. How you are able to combine these, understand them well and know what’s best suited to every customer case is important.”

The relationship between carriers and businesses is tightly tethered. The needs of one, directly affect the needs of the other. Interestingly, Dufal said they are the same.

“Their needs are mostly the same I think by design as one feeds into another,” he says. “The needs are similar whether you deal with an end user or a customer in the mass market or in the B2B market, or in the carrier to carrier market.”

Multi-cloud is another topic high on the list for International Carriers, Orange customers and one that has to be carefully managed from the carrier side.

“When you speak of multi-cloud you speak of data, which is spread across a series of locations, and which you need to access quite simply and transparently. Beneath that, you have a lot of software to orchestrate all this, but also services from pipes to transport services, to IP etc. which will create more opportunities for carriers.”

In March of this year, International Carriers, Orange, welcomed a new CEO, with Emmanuel Rochas now taking the reigns at the company.

At the time Rochas commented: “My intention is to accelerate the growth of International Carriers, and I plan to build on the expertise, engagement and enthusiasm of the teams here to make it a growing entity which continues to be profitable. I plan to leverage the power and the scale of the Orange group and with all the advantages that it brings to our activities, in terms of geographical presence or indeed the innovative resources available.”

The road ahead

As the interview draws to a close, Dufal outlines his areas of focus for the future doubling down on two key areas – seemingly echoing Rochas sentiment of profitability and tapping into Orange’s existing security resources.

“We’re continuing to work on our newly launched Ethernet Now service, which offers on-demand Ethernet, and there is more to come on the on-demand front in our roadmap for the years to come,” he explains enthusiastically.

“The second piece is on security, he says. “Our security portfolio is already very rich, and we’re working more on adding new customers that can benefit from our services. We want our customers to avoid the trap of creating huge security gaps because they did not have access to the right expertise.”